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China under pressure over foreign policy -

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EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi appeared before hundreds of
journalists today as part of the National People's Congress.

As Beijing's power and influence grows on the world stage, the country's leaders are coming under
pressure to drop their don't-get-involved approach to foreign affairs.

China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

STEPHEN MCDONELL, REPORTER: China's state power is ever on the rise. This is driven by its economic
strength and growing military might. What's more, as its place on the world stage grows larger, its
diplomats are feeling the heat.

There were plenty of questions to be asked of the foreign minister when he appeared at the National
People's Congress. But as Yang Jiechi stepped out of the Great Hall of People, he knew this would
be a press conference with Chinese characteristics.

YANG JIECHI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER (translated): We will continue to stand for resolving
regional and international issues - in particular those hot spots - through dialogue, consultation
and negotiation, and play a responsible role as a big country.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: In a media conference of nearly two hours, you'd expect the Chinese foreign
minister to speak quite a bit about Syria, given the role Russia and China have played in blocking
international intervention - especially given that today allegations have emerged that
anti-government patients have been tortured in a military hospital in Homs. These injured
protestors are said to have been flogged and electrocuted by hospital staff loyal to the Assad
regime.

But with the questions all pre-vetted, this is as close as Yang Jiechi got to addressing the issues
in Syria.

YANG JIECHI (translated): We firmly believe that people in the Middle East know best about the
situation there. Issues in the Middle East region should be resolved by people in the Middle East,
and the future and destiny of the Middle East region should be determined by the people there.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: China's foreign policy position can basically be summed up by: "We don't get
involved in other country's internal affairs", and you hear it said here often enough.

The reason for this is obvious. They don't want others to get involved here, but in the modern
world this is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, especially as China's power grows. A
couple of days ago, the Chinese government said it would increase its military budget this year by
11.2 per cent.

China says that this is completely normal for a developing country of its size, and actually many
analysts agree. The problem is that this budget figure could be a complete fabrication, and
neighbouring countries remain concerned despite China's reassurances that it does not represent a
threat to anyone.

WEN JIABAO, CHINESE PREMIER (translated): We will enhance the armed forces' capability to
accomplish a wide range of military tasks - the most important of which is to win local wars.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: The foreign minister was also asked if he was worried about the United States
expanding its military presence in Australia and elsewhere in the region.

YANG JIECHI (translated): China and the US have more converging interests in Asia than anywhere
else in the world. The trend in this part of the world, in my view, is peace, development and
cooperation. They're all going strong in this region. This needs people's will, and it is
unstoppable.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: So, in Asia at least, there is optimism.